Suguru Osako breaks course record in Surf City men’s half marathon

A source of pride for the Surf City Marathon was the 15,000 runners that signed up from 47 different states.

For many, the trip to Southern California was probably viewed as a nice reprieve from the severe weather conditions across the country.

An unusually wet winter has continued in California, but that did not stop the runners from turning up the heat on the course in Huntington Beach on Sunday.

Japanese distance runners Suguru Osako and Tetsuya Yoroizaka broke the tape at the finish line together to win the men’s half marathon race.

Osako, 27, was credited with the win. He recently broke the record for Japanese marathon runners at the Chicago Marathon in October, clocking in at 2 hours 5 minutes 50 seconds for third place. He said that he is training for his home Tokyo Marathon in March.

A new record now belongs to Osako who completed the Surf City half marathon course in 1:02:59.07. He broke the previous course record of 1:03:37, which was established by James Grabow in 2011.

“It was really good today,” Osako said. “It was a tough course. It was really flat, but super windy. I’ve been training good, and I’m hoping that the next four weeks will go great.”

Osako and Yoroizaka (1:03:00.42), who are training partners, left the field behind early. They ran the first 5,000 meters at a 4:43-mile pace.

The Japanese duo crossed the finish line nearly eight minutes ahead of the third-place finisher, Patrick Hearn of Irvine (10:10:48).

Spencer Johnson wins the Surf City men's marathon in Huntington Beach Sunday.
(Spencer Grant)

Spencer Johnson, a former cross-country and track athlete at Marist College, won the men’s marathon in 2:39:05.

The 23-year-old San Diego native appreciated the use of bikers to navigate the leaders through the maze of competitors on the course, especially with multiple races being run at the same time.

“It was nice having the bikers next to me,” Johnson said. “They kind of kept me on pace, for the most part. They would talk to me and give me tips along the way. It was tough, especially being alone for such a long time.”

Johnson said he led from the third mile onward.

The women’s half marathon went to Mariel Mendoza of Riverside, who completed the course in 1:18:30. Mendoza, 24, ran at Cal in college. She took off earlier than she expected in her race.

“I wanted to start conservatively,” Mendoza said. “I was pacing my teammate through the first five miles. The plan was to pace her through eight at around six-minute pace.

“I think I got a little hungry in Mile 5. She told me to go, so I went for it. I just went off of feel, to be honest, and then the last three miles was just kind of grinding it out.”

Runners said that the rain was not as much of a factor as the wind, which whipped into the face of the competitors as they headed east on Pacific Coast Highway towards the finish line.

Caroline Boller gets out in front of the pack at the start of the Surf City Marathon in Huntington Beach Sunday.
(Spencer Grant)

Caroline Boller, 44, was a late bloomer when it came to her running career, but she won her second women’s marathon after picking up competitive distance running at the age of 38. She finished in 2:55.44.

“It was a little bit of a rough day conditions-wise, but you have to go with whatever the day brings and be prepared to run anyway,” said Boller, a Solvang resident. “The headwind was pretty strong for a good part of the race, but at least it didn’t pour with rain, so it could have been worse.”

A host of organizations and running clubs partook in the races, including Ainsley’s Angels of America, which provides opportunities to the special needs community to participate in endurance events.

The volunteers pushed children with disabilities in chariots.

LaShawn Saiz of Long Beach and her husband, Harley, had their son, Caleb, pass at the age of 4 the day after Christmas due to spinal muscular atrophy. They had planned to run three half marathons and a full marathon with Caleb before his passing.

Robin Totsch allowed the Saiz family to carry out its stated goal of running those chariot races with her son, Andrew Bristow, a 15-year-old who suffered a traumatic brain injury from a vehicle accident.

“We’re happy that we get to help with other kids because their parents don’t run,” LaShawn Saiz said, adding that she felt a mixture of pain and happiness before starting the race. “We can run for those kids in situations where kids’ parents want their kids to participate but they’re not necessarily runners themselves.

“Ainsley’s Angels is great because you don’t actually have to have a disabled child. You can actually volunteer as a runner, so it’s nice that the organization is still having us participate and to still be part of the team, although we are not with our rider anymore.”

Twitter: @ProfessorTurner